Licensing changes at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

Neil Sloane’s invaluable OEIS has just launched its new page, featuring among other things a wiki and a backend that allows the encylopedia to grow with much less personal supervision from Sloane himself.  But not all the changes are welcome:  William Stein points out the new end-user licensing agreement, which is much more restrictive than previously.  Here’s what William posted to the number theory listserv:

…there are now new and very significant restrictions on using OEIS content:
“To make copies, distribute, make Adaptations and make copies of and
distribute the Adaptations, of no more than 5% of the OEIS Content”.
This is in sharp contrast to how OEIS was before, where, e.g., there
was a file  http://oeis.org/stripped.gz  that contained the sequences
themselves.  (This matters to me, since we make them available for
Sage, with a nice interface.)  This was an incredibly useful tool,
since it meant that even without internet access (or in a secure
closed network), one could do searches of OEIS, which is in my opinion
a critical research tool that was built partly by the effort of the
community (you).   Distribution of this stripped.gz file now appears
to be illegal.

I think the recent direction OEIS is going in is unfortunate.  It’s
the exact opposite of how, e.g., Wikipedia operates.  Anybody can
mirror Wikipedia content, there is a complete 6GB tarball you can
download that contains all article, etc.

So before signing up for an account, and signing away the rights to
all data or sequences you’ve submitted, please consider the above.

I will not be registering or contributing to OEIS until the license changes.

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4 thoughts on “Licensing changes at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

  1. fergal says:

    If the old licence permits then it should be possible to take the last dump under the old licence and fork.

    Just the threat may do the trick.

  2. Russ Cox says:

    This is quite a bit blown out of proportion.

    The OEIS never had a license before. It was available as a file on a web server, copyrighted by AT&T, with no explicit license granting anyone redistribution rights, though of course people did anyway. The situation was murky at best.

    The OEIS recently transferred ownership from AT&T to the newly established OEIS Foundation, and more recently transferred editing mechanisms from “mail changes to Neil” to a web-based, collaborative, wiki-like editing system. These have both been very big transitions for the OEIS, and neither is yet complete.

    As part of transitioning to ownership by the new OEIS Foundation, we (the trustees) added an explicit license. The fact that it grants anything at all makes it less restrictive than what was there before, but we recognize that it is not right yet. William Stein raised some valid objections to the license. We definitely think that the uses he raises should be allowed, so the license will have to change. The OEIS Foundation Board has been discussing alternate licenses for the past few days.

    That said, the OEIS is 45 years old and intends to be a lasting reference work; it does not move at “internet speed”. The transitions I mentioned above have themselves already been going on for over a year. I am sure that we will end up with the right license, one that works for the OEIS and works for its users, Sage and William Stein among them. But it will probably take a few weeks, maybe even into January due to the upcoming holidays.

    Please be patient. All will turn out right.

  3. JSE says:

    Good to hear! I’ll post an update when there’s a new license.

  4. Jasper Crowne says:

    The OEIS has begun using the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 license as of February 12, 2011: http://oeis.org/w/index.php?title=The_OEIS_End-User_License_Agreement&diff=1544551&oldid=1466797

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